Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Some Info from the Web on PAIR
Marion County MHA
PROJECT(S): Court-based jail diversion
The Marion County Mental Health Association (MHA) coordinated a process through which representatives of the courts, jails, and mental health service providers developed a court-based jail diversion program.
In 1994, after receiving calls from the courthouse and the jail asking for assistance with an increasing number of individuals with mental illness, staff of the Marion County MHA convened a group of local judges, prosecutors, jail staff, and service providers to talk about the scope of the problem and potential solutions. The diverse stakeholders all agreed: individuals with mental illness charged with minor infractions should be diverted into treatment.
As plans for a diversion program took shape, two sticking points became apparent. First, legislative changes were necessary to allow for a diversion program. A lawyer on the MHA's board volunteered to draft appropriate legislation, which promptly passed. Second, local judges and prosecutors wanted assurance that participants would comply with treatment and receive follow-up care. To address this concern, the parties agreed that MHA would monitor participants' compliance and would report back monthly to the court and district attorney. The parties also agreed to a weekly roundtable in which all relevant parties could discuss cases. Based on these and other agreements, Marion County launched the Psychiatric Assertive Identification and Referral Project (PAIR), which allows defendants with mental illness facing misdemeanor charges to receive treatment in lieu of prosecution, with the charges dismissed upon the successful completion of treatment for a set period of time.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of the MHA was establishing trust between different agencies. The cornerstone of the program is the weekly roundtable in which service providers, MHA staff, representatives from community corrections, the prosecutor, and public defenders review eligible cases. Open communication between all stakeholders is essential for the program to run smoothly.
PAIR was funded through a reallocation of resources. All participating parties the court, public defenders, prosecutors, treatment providers, and MHA volunteer staff time to make the program happen. As the program has expanded, it has grown from one judge to two. In addition, MHA has increased its staffing commitment and now provides a dedicated staff member. PAIR has received funding from the United Way in order to pay for the full-time program staff member.
At the start of the program, community mental health providers were not accustomed to providing updates to MHA and were slow to respond to information requests. In response to this problem, the court gave MHA subpoena power, which helped providers prioritize their reporting function. This has, in turn, increased judicial and prosecutorial confidence in the program.